County won't raise taxes more than 11.3 cents per $1,000 in taxable value
In a 3-2 vote the morning of July 23, Flagler County commissioners approved a TRIM rate, or truth in millage rate, that is an increase of 11.3 cents per $1,000 dollars of taxable value over the current rate of $8.1167 per $1,000 of taxable value.
The TRIM rate, which will be sent out in notices to homeowners, is the highest rate the county could set when it determines its millage rate for the coming year.
"My sense is that if we stayed at millage rate that was last year, that in fact is a tax increase. That's about a 7% tax increase," Hansen said after the vote. "And I just think that's enough. .... We should've scrubbed it harder and gotten some more savings and gotten it down to where we had the same millage rate as last year. Because again, that is a tax increase. It's a very small one, 7%, but it is. So we're adding to that, and I'm just not comfortable with doing that. I think we should have held the line on last year's millage rate."
Asked if he had a particular item or items he'd like to see cut in order to keep the rate flat, Hansen said no, but he added, "But there's a way to do it, and I'm going to keep working on it. And we're not done yet."
O'Brien, during previous budget workshops, had suggested ways the county could keep its costs down in the upcoming budget.
"I've been firm since the start of our budget that we needed to stay at the flat millage at 8.1167," he said. "To me, it's the principle of the thing and sticking to my position right from the start. That's what I stated my intention was all along."
If the county needs more revenue, he said, it could get it from assessments and new construction, "But for me, it ought to end there."
The potential millage increase the commission approved in the TRIM rate July 23 was lower than rates commissioners had considered over the course of budget workshops in recent weeks. It includes $400,000 in cuts to the initially proposed Sheriff's Office budget, and Sheriff Rick Staly hasn't yet told the county he'll be able to make those cuts.
"My advice to you is we just pick a number and they’ve got to find a way to make it work," County Administrator Craig Coffey told commissioners.
Coffey initially came to commissioners during a previous budget workshop proposing an increase of 0.25 mills, or 25 cents per $1,000 in taxable value, in order to raise an additional $2.1 million to pay for increased costs at the Sheriff's Office, technology upgrades in different county offices, staff raises and other expenses. But commissioners thought that was too high, and Coffey brought back a budget with a 20-cent increase July 9 before reducing it further for the July 23 budget meeting.
O'Brien had suggested a measure that Coffey ultimately integrated into the lower July 23 proposal: pushing back $900,000 of tech upgrades that were planned for the coming budget year by spreading them over three years instead of two.